Dick York

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Dick York
Dick York 1965.JPG
Dick York in 1965
Born Richard Allen York
(1928-09-04)September 4, 1928
Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA
Died February 20, 1992(1992-02-20) (aged 63)
East Grand Rapids, Michigan
Cause of death
Emphysema
Resting place
Plainfield Cemetery in Rockford, Michigan
Occupation Actor
Years active 1947–1984
Spouse(s) Joan Alt (1951–1992, his death)

Richard Allen York, known as Dick York (September 4, 1928 – February 20, 1992), was an American actor. He is best remembered for his role as the first Darrin Stephens on the ABC television fantasy sitcom, Bewitched. His best known motion picture role was as teacher Bertram Cates in the 1960 film Inherit the Wind.

Early life[edit]

Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, York grew up in Chicago, where a Catholic nun first recognized his vocal promise. He began his career at the age of 15 as the star of the CBS radio program That Brewster Boy. He also appeared in hundreds of other radio shows and instructional films before heading to New York City, where he acted on Broadway in Tea and Sympathy and Bus Stop. He performed with stars including Paul Muni and Joanne Woodward in live television broadcasts and with Janet Leigh, Jack Lemmon and Glenn Ford in movies, including My Sister Eileen and Cowboy.

It was while filming the 1959 movie They Came to Cordura with Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth that York would receive a permanently disabling back injury. In York's own words: "Gary Cooper and I were propelling a handcar carrying several 'wounded' men down [the] railroad track. I was on the bottom stroke of this sort of teeter-totter mechanism that made the handcar run. I was just lifting the handle up as the director yelled 'cut!' and one of the "wounded" cast members reached up and grabbed the handle. I was suddenly, jarringly, lifting his entire weight off the flatbed—one hundred and eighty pounds or so. The muscles along the right side of my back tore. They just snapped and let loose. And that was the start of it all: the pain, the painkillers, the addiction, the lost career."

In 1960, he played the role of Bertram Cates (modelled on John Thomas Scopes, of "Monkey Trial" fame) in the film version of Inherit the Wind.[1]

York went on to star with Gene Kelly and Leo G. Carroll in the ABC television comedy/drama Going My Way. York was cast in the series as Tom Colwell, who operates a secular youth center.

York appeared in dozens of episodes of now-classic television series, including Justice, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Rawhide, The Americans, Wagon Train, Father Knows Best, and CBS's The Twilight Zone and Route 66.

Bewitched[edit]

York with Bewitched co-stars Elizabeth Montgomery (lower right) and Agnes Moorehead

York was cast as the first Darrin Stephens in the 1960s sitcom, Bewitched, as Samantha's (Elizabeth Montgomery) mortal husband. The show was a huge success and York was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1968. Because of his back injury, which sometimes caused him to seize up in debilitating pain in later years, the scripts for some of his final episodes on Bewitched were written around his being in bed or on the couch for the entire episode. One day, during the fifth season of the sitcom: "I was too sick to go on. I had a temperature of 105, full of strong antibiotics, for almost 10 days. I went to work that day but I was sick. I lay in my dressing room after being in make-up, waiting to be called on the set. They knew I was feeling pretty rotten, and they tried to give me time to rest. I kept having chills. This was the middle of the summer and I was wearing a sheepskin jacket and I was chilling. I was shaking all over. Then, while sitting on a scaffolding with Maurice Evans, being lit for a special effects scene: They were setting an inky - that's a little tiny spot[light] that was supposed to be just flickering over my eyes. That flickering, flickering flickering made me feel weird. And I'm sitting on this platform up in the air...and I turned to Gibby, who was just down below, and I said, 'Gibby, I think I have to get down.' He started to help me down and that's the last thing I remember until I woke up on the floor. That's about all I remember of the incident...and I'd managed to bite a very large hole in the side of my tongue before they could pry my teeth apart."[2]

From York's hospital bed, he and director Bill Asher discussed York's future. "Do you want to quit?" Asher asked. "If it's all right with you, Billy," York replied. With that, York left the show to devote himself to recovery. From season six until the series ended in 1972, the role of Darrin Stephens was played by actor Dick Sargent. Sargent was originally offered the role of Darrin in 1964, but turned it down to do a short-lived sitcom called Broadside.[3]

Later years[edit]

Dick York in 1983 on an episode of Simon & Simon.

Largely bedridden, York battled not only his back pain but an addiction to prescription pain killers.

In his memoir, The Seesaw Girl and Me, published posthumously, he describes the struggle to break his addiction and to come to grips with the loss of his career. The book is in large part a love letter to his wife, Joan (née Alt), the seesaw girl of the title, who stuck with him through the hard times. York eventually beat his addiction and tried to revive his career. He appeared on several prime-time television series including Simon & Simon and Fantasy Island.

York, a three pack a day smoker,[4] spent his final years battling emphysema. While bedridden in his Rockford, Michigan, home, he founded Acting for Life, a private charity to help the homeless and others in need. Using his telephone as his pulpit, York motivated politicians, business people, and the general public to contribute supplies and money.[5]

Despite his suffering, York said, "I've been blessed. I have no complaints. I've been surrounded by people in radio, on stage and in motion pictures and television who love me. The things that have gone wrong have been simply physical things."[6]

York died of complications from emphysema at Blodgett Hospital in East Grand Rapids, Michigan, on February 20, 1992. He was sixty-three years old.

York is buried in Plainfield Cemetery in Belmont, Michigan.[7]

Filmography[edit]

Film
Year Film Role Other notes
1945 Insomnia
(Combat Fatigue: Insomnia)
Lucky Short film for U.S. Navy
1947 Shy Guy Philip Norton Short film
1950 Last Date Nick Short film
1951 How Friendly Are You? Phil Short film
1955 My Sister Eileen Ted 'Wreck' Loomis
1955 Three Stripes in the Sun Cpl. Neeby Muhlendorf
1957 Operation Mad Ball Cpl. Bohun
1958 Cowboy Charlie, Trailhand
1959 The Last Blitzkrieg Sgt. Ludwig
1959 They Came to Cordura Pvt. Renziehausen
1960 Inherit the Wind Bertram T. Cates
Television
Year Title Role Notes
1955 Goodyear Television Playhouse John Randolph Episode: "Visit to a Small Planet"
1955 The Philco Television Playhouse Andy Episode: "Incident in July"
1955 Justice Episode: "Fatal Payment"
1955–1957 Kraft Television Theatre Episode: "Million Dollar Rookie
Episode: "Mock Trial"
Episode: "Ride into Danger"
1956 Playwrights '56 Grayson Episode: "Honor"
1956 Eye on New York Lt. Mac Hartman Episode: "Night of the Auk"
1956–1958 Studio One George Fox
George Weston
Captain Jay Hellman
Episode: "A Man's World"
Episode: "The Weston Strain"
Episode: "The Enemy Within"
1957 The Kaiser Aluminum Hour Edward Gillis Episode: "A Real Fine Cutting Edge"
1957–1962 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Manny Coe
Norman Logan
J.J. Bunce
Ralph Jones
Tom Barton
Herbert J. Wiggam
Episode: "Vicious Circle"
Episode: "The Dusty Drawer"
Episode: "The Blessington Method"
Episode: "The Doubtful Doctor"
Episode: "You Can't Be a Little Girl All Your Life"
Episode: "The Twelve Hour Caper"
1958 The United States Steel Hour Gordon Bates Episode: "Beaver Patrol"
Climax! Gordon Bates Episode: "Shooting for the Moon"
1958–1959 Playhouse 90 Scott Arlen
Tom
Matthew Sherwood
Episode: "The Last Clear Chance"
Episode: "The Time of Your Life"
Episode: "Made in Japan"
Episode: "Out of Dust"
1958, 1960 The Millionaire Ken Leighton
Sandy Newell
Episode: "The Ken Leighton Story"
Episode: "Millionaire Sandy Newell"
1960 The Untouchables Ernie Torrance Episode: "The White Slavers"
Alcoa Theatre Corporal James Sloan Episode: "The Glorious Fourth"
Stagecoach West Webb Crawford Episode: "Three Wise Men"
1960–1961 The Twilight Zone Capt. Phil Riker
Hector Poole
Episode: "The Purple Testament"
Episode: "A Penny for Your Thoughts"
1961 Naked City Charles Colano Episode: "Bullets Cost Too Much"
The DuPont Show with June Allyson Lt. James Whitney Episode: "School of the Soldier"
The Americans Bolick Episode: "The War Between the States"
General Electric Theater Ashael Miller Episode: "A Musket for Jessica"
Adventures in Paradise Markham Jones Episode: "The Reluctant Hero"
The Outlaws Sam Nichols Episode: "Night Riders"
Dr. Kildare Harry Benton Episode: "The Lonely Ones"
Frontier Circus Jeb Randall Episode: "The Shaggy Kings"
1961, 1963 Rawhide Frank Price
Elwood P. Gilroy
Episode: "Incident of the Broken Word"
Episode: "Incident at Confidence Creek"
1961–1964 Wagon Train Willie Pettigrew
Charley Shutup
Ben Mitchell
Episode: "The Clementine Jones Story"
Episode: "The Charley Shutup Story"
Episode: "The Michael Malone Story"
1962 Thriller Fred Bancroft Episode: "The Incredible Doktor Markesan"
1962–1963 Going My Way Tom Colwell
1963 Insight Episode: "Breakthrough"
Route 66 Lieutenant School Episode: "What a Shining Young Man Was Our Gallant Lieutenant"
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Sheriff Will Pearce Episode: "Terror at Northfield"
The Virginian Jeff Tolliver Episode: "Stopover in a Western Town"
1964–1969 Bewitched Darrin Stephens
1965 The Flintstones Darrin Stephens Episode: "Samantha"
1983 Simon & Simon Martin Donlevy Episode: "Too Much of a Good Thing"
1984 Fantasy Island Episode: "Sweet Life/Games People Play"

Awards and nominations[edit]

Emmy Awards
  • 1968: Nominated, "Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series"- Bewitched

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Crowther, Bosley (October 13, 1960). "Inherit the Wind". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). 
  2. ^ Douglas, John (April 1992). "Dick York of Bewitched - A Farewell Interview". bewitched.net. Retrieved April 8, 2010. 
  3. ^ Keehnen, Owen. "No More "Straight Man," Dick Sargent is Out and Proud". Chicago Outlines. Retrieved August 10, 2011. 
  4. ^ Allis, Tim; Leonhauser, Maria (March 6, 1989). "Shut in but Not Shut Off, Actor Dick York Gives the Time He Has Left to the Homeless". People (Time Inc.) 31 (9). 
  5. ^ Secter, Bob (February 8, 1989). "Bewitched by a Cause : Dick York Is Dying of Emphysema but He Lives to Help the Homeless". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  6. ^ Douglas, John (April 1992). "Dick York of Bewitched - A Farewell Interview". bewitched.net. Retrieved April 8, 2010. 
  7. ^ Plainfield Cemetery, Kent County Michigan (Jul 9, 1998). "Dick York's grave". FindaGrave.com. Retrieved January 1, 2011. 
  • York, Dick. The Seesaw Girl and Me. pp. 15–16, 100-105.

External links[edit]